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Under the Radar: Art Around the Bay Area

Sam & Max Freelance Police
Copyright © 2014, Steve Purcell

The San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with some of the leading museums in the nation, including the de Young and Legion of Honor (both part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and the Asian Art Museum.

Fortunately, we are equally blessed with a number of smaller, more specialized institutions sprinkled throughout the metropolitan area that consistently offer exciting and thought-provoking shows featuring both up-and-coming and established artists.

This article examines a few of these exhibitions currently on display around the Bay Area.

Sam & Max - Swift And Mirthful Justice: The Art Of Steve Purcell — Cartoon Art Museum

The Cartoon Art Museum, located in the South of Market (SOMA) district, could easily be overshadowed by some of its notably larger and more famous neighbors including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. But with over 6,000 pieces of original, cartoon, and animation art, together with a a comprehensive research library and five galleries of exhibition space, it is a gem of a museum for both cartoon and art lovers in general.

Among the current exhibitions on display is Sam & Max - Swift And Mirthful Justice: The Art Of Steve Purcell, featuring highlights collected from a range of media including published comics, an animated television show, video games and more. Sam & Max Freelance Police revolves around a pair of anthropomorphic characters (a suit- and fedora-wearing dog and a rabbit-like creature) who resolve problems in various contemporary and historical locations.

Originating as a series of stories initially crafted with his younger brother Dave while in their childhood, Purcell has since expanded the franchise into a graphic adventure video game (developed by LucasArts), a television series (produced for Fox), and a series of episodic adventure games (developed by Telltale Games). In addition to his cartoon work, Purcell is a member of Pixar Animation Studios, and was co-writer and co-director of the 2012 animated hit Brave.

Alongside the exhibition, special events with Steve Purcell include a book signing, guided tour of the exhibition, and special reception with the artist on the afternoon and evening of February 1st (visit the museum website for more information and tickets).

The exhibition is on display until April 20th

Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street (between New Montgomery and Third Streets)
San Francisco, CA

Tuesday to Sunday: 11am – 5pm

Katherine Meyer: Territories of Experience — Triton Museum of Art

The Triton Museum of Art, across the street from the Santa Clara Civic Center, prides itself on providing a venue for local artists of the Greater Bay Area to have their work exhibited alongside leading regional and national artists. And though it is a comparatively small institution, the range and quality of works regularly presented is often quite outstanding.

An exhibition featuring the charcoal drawings of Katherine Meyer is no exception. The collection of monochromatic drawings featuring lush landscapes, detailed foliage, and the tender interplay between light and shadow indicate the clear influence that Meyer’s ten years in the backwoods of Maine had on both her art and her psyche. After receiving her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Meyer has had a string of gallery and museum exhibitions culminating in not one, but two, simultaneous exhibitions this month—in addition to the Triton Museum, Meyer has a solo show at the the Vargas Gallery at Mission College, also in Santa Clara.

Art reviewer Johnette Rodriguez has characterized Meyer’s charcoal work as “photographically realistic and painterly impressionistic.” Similarly the Triton Museum adds that the absence of any specific locale shifts the view “from mere documentation of specific sites, to geographies of memory and dream.”

The exhibition is on display until May 4th.

Triton Museum of Art
1505 Warburton Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95050

The museum is open six days a week and has free admission to exhibitions and many of the events. Parking is free.

“Her Story”: Prints by Elizabeth Murray, 1986–2006 — Cantor Center for Visual Arts

The Cantor Arts Center, located on the Stanford University campus, is one of the art jewels of the South Bay. Founded in 1891, the museum features holdings in excess of 32,000 art works spanning over 5,000 years of history. Among the exhibitions currently on display is “Her Story”: Prints by Elizabeth Murray, a collection of 42 editions made during the last two decades of Murray’s life (1986 - 2006) at New York’s Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE).

After completing a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1958, Murray (originally from Chicago) completed an MFA at Mills College in Oakland before moving to New York to pursue her vision. Highlights in her career included the Skowhegan Medal in Painting in 1986, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award in 1999 and, perhaps most significantly, a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2005.

The exhibition at the Cantor Center, drawn primarily from a private collection, highlights Murray’s experimental approach to printmaking. Oftentimes this involved printing, tearing, and recombining multiple elements into single compositions, while drawing inspiration from a range of predecessors including Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso through to modern day comics and Disney cartoons. The result is a complex series that transcends the idea of prints as strictly two-dimensional objects.

The exhibition is on display until March 30th.

Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA

Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 11 am – 8 pm

Admission is free

Terry Berlier: Erased Loop Random Walk — San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Founded in 1980 and located in the popular South First Area (SoFA) entertainment district, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is an energetic, member-supported, non-profit organization that encourages community engagement with compelling contemporary art.

Incorporating three galleries in a modest, single-story structure, the ICA thrives on presenting challenging yet intellectually amusing art, as it did most memorably a couple of years ago with a show called Chico & Chang. Featuring eleven artists dissecting the impact of Latino and Asian influences on California culture, the exhibition was punctuated by Clement Hanami’s Goon Squad Garage (2009) — a tricked-out lowrider rickshaw — and Tracey Snelling’s Mexicalichina (2011), a striking tabletop barrio sculpture.

On display now, occupying all three ICA galleries, is Terry Berlier: Erased Loop Random Walk, a larger-scale solo exhibition of kinetic sculptures and sound installations. Focused on the concept of recording time, the exhibition is a combination of craft and low-cost high tech, comfortably at home in the city that bills itself as the capital of Silicon Valley. Berlier, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, clearly enjoys tinkering and problem solving, and likewise expects a degree of participation from the audience in making the art works come alive.

The title of the exhibition, by the way, comes from a concept in graph theory (mathematics) — no relationship, of course, but somehow nevertheless strangely appropriate.

The exhibition is on display until February 15th.

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
560 South First Street
San Jose, CA

Tues - Fri: 10am-5pm
Sat: 12pm - 5pm
First Fridays: 10am-10pm

Free admission. Donations welcomed.

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